Iowa House bill would let 16 and 17 year olds get cosmetology, barbering licenses

DES MOINES — The Iowa House has passed a bill to let older teenagers get a state license so they can cut and style hair in a salon or barber shop.

Current Iowa law requires someone to get a high school degree or GED before they may get a cosmetology or barbering license. The bill says anyone who’s completed 10th grade and finished training at a school for barbers and cosmetologists could get a state license if they’re at least 16 years old.

Representative Derek Wulf, a Republican from Hudson, said schools that train cosmetologists and barbers in Iowa do require that students have completed high school, so it’s redundant to keep that requirement in state law. “We’ve heard from several 17 year old high school students who have wrapped up their senior year of high school and they really want to start their classes,” Wulf said, “but unfortunately the way the law stands today, they cannot do that.”

And Wulf said Iowa would not be unique in letting older teens get cosmetology licenses. “Other Midwestern states that have the same 16 year old requirement include South Dakota and Ohio. Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska have a 17 year old age requirement,” Wulf said. “Minnesota doesn’t have an age requirement, but requires a high school diploma or equivalent.”

Representative Amy Nielsen, a Democrat from North Liberty, supports other parts of the bill, but she said lowering the age may encourage teens to drop out of high school. “I think as the education state, we are doing ourselves and our children a disservice,” Nielsen said.

The bill passed the House on an 84-11 vote. A similar bill has passed a committee in the Iowa Senate, but it would not allow 16 and 17 year olds to become licensed cosmetologists or barbers.

Other parts of both bills would dramatically reduce the schooling required to get a state cosmetology or barbering license. Under current law, students must complete 2100 hours of classroom instruction and supervised cutting and styling of hair to get a license. The bill would reduce that by about 26%. The House and Senate bills also would combine the Iowa Board of Barbering and the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences.